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Release Date: October 29, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
In ‘The Music Lesson’ Flip returns to his schoolboy days from ‘School Days‘, and this short also stars the teacher and dog from the earlier cartoon.
‘The Music lesson’ starts with Flip having to stay inside for one hour to practice his piano lessons. But his human friends signal him from the outside to come outside and swim. Flip tries to sneak out three times, and he succeeds the third time, but at the pond he’s caught by both his piano teacher and a gamekeeper, and in the last scene he’s seen practicing his piano in jail, guarded by the two authority figures.
‘The Music Lesson’ is a genuine attempt at a continuity of gags, but the short is severely hampered by erratic animation and sloppy timing. None of the gags really comes off, and the finale is anything but that. It seems that by the end of 1932 Flip’s short-lived heydays were already over.
Watch ‘The Music Lesson’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘The Music Lesson’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons That Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 1’
Release Date: May 13, 1932
Stars: Flip the Frog
In most of his films Flip the Frog, like Mickey Mouse, is somewhat of a young adult. Yet, in ‘School Days’ Flip suddenly is young enough to have to attend school, where he gets music lessons among human kids.
Unfortunately, Flip’s dog (introduced in the previous cartoon, ‘Puppy Love’) has followed him to school, and battles with a skunk, which has popped out of nowhere, making all people, including the desks, flee the building.
‘School Days’ is a very weak and terribly unfunny cartoon, anticipating many childish cartoon of the later 1930s. Its story is less consistent, but also less sentimental than that of ‘The Milkman‘ or ‘What a Life‘ from earlier that year. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exchange the sentimentality for anything, rendering a bland, forgettable cartoon. To illustrate this: the ‘best gag’ is when the teacher accidentally picks up an erotic magazine instead of a schoolbook.
Watch ‘School Days’ yourself and tell me what you think:
‘School Days’ is available on the DVD ‘Cartoons that Time Forgot – The Ub Iwerks Collection Vol. 2’
Director: Robert McKimson
Release Date: December 13, 1949
Stars: Goofy Gophers
Robert McKimson reuses the Goofy Gophers from the Art Davis cartoons ‘Goofy Gophers’ (1947) and ‘Two Gophers from Texas’ (1948) to play them against an anonymous dog who wants to be a Shakespearean actor.
The dog finds the gophers in his house, where they start to nag him for no reason. The humor comes from the Shakespeare quotes and the apt practical jokes the Gophers play on the dog. However, it’s the opening scene that is the most remarkable part of the film: directly after the opening titles we watch the dog being hit by a pie, only to get the ‘That’s All Folks’ caption immediately after it. Then we watch the dog leaving ‘the stage’, cartoons and broad comedy in general to follow his Shakespearean dreams. This scene anticipates a similar scene in ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?‘ (1988).
It’s a pity that the rest of the cartoon doesn’t live up to this great opening, and that McKimson didn’t use a more familiar or appealing character than this dog, which ultimately fails to impress.
Robert McKimson would return to the Gophers only once, in 1958, with ‘Gopher Broke’.
Watch ‘A Ham in a Role’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Director: Tex Avery
Release date: February 14, 1955
When a man and his dog are overrun by a car, mixed-up blood plasma results in mixing their behavior: the man starts to act dog-like, while the dog wins some human character traits. This is not a very exciting idea to start with, and Avery milks this premise to a nice finale, without ever getting really funny. Luckily, he would do much, much better with his next cartoon at Lantz, ‘The Legend of Rockabye Point‘ (1955).
The married couple, ‘Maggie and Sam’, were reused in three more cartoons in 1956-1957.
Watch ‘Crazy Mixed-up Pup’ yourself and tell me what you think:
Directors: Ted Berman, Richard Rich & Art Stevens
Release Date: July 10, 1981
‘The Fox and the Hound’ was the feature in which the last of the nine old men, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, passed on their knowledge and their legacy to a younger generation of animators. In this respect it’s the most transitional film in Disney history. And unfortunately, it shows, because it’s neither an old classic, nor does it have the spirit of a film by young Turks, despite most of the animation being nothing less than great.
On the contrary, the end product is a tame, slow moving and rather tiresome movie more belonging to a time long past than to the 1980s, the decade in which it was made. Its main flaws are in storytelling: none of the actions of the protagonists are very well motivated, the villains are hardly threatening and a lot of screen time is spent on the totally non-related antics of a sparrow called Dinky and a loony, rather annoying woodpecker called Boomer trying to catch a caterpillar. These birds, like the friendly old female owl Big Mama (voiced by black jazz singer Pearl Bailey), do nothing more than watching the main action.
The songs do not propel the action forward, either, but tend to drag the film down. And in the scenes in which Tod tries to survive in the forest, it becomes very difficult to see him interact with birds and furry animals. How he’s going to survive in the forest without killing animals remains unexplained. Finally, at the end of the film, a bear appears out of nowhere, like a deus ex machina, to be the sole reuniter of the two friends.
In fact, the only appeal of ‘The Fox and the Hound’ lies in the quality of the animation itself, and in the film’s beautiful backgrounds. Because of its out-of-time setting the film can be regarded timeless, but a timeless classic it ain’t.
Watch the fight scene from ‘The Fox and the Hound’ and tell me what you think:
Director: Hawley Pratt
Release Date: December 23, 1966
Stars: The Pink Panther, The Little Guy
The Pink Panther tries to get rid of the little guy, but it is the little guy’s dog who gets the blame. When finally man and dog discover that the Pink Panther is the real cause of their trouble, they chase him out of the park into the distance.
‘Rock-A-Bye Pinky’ is one of the better Pink Panther cartoons: it has a good story and some great gags. The dog would reappear in ‘Pink Paradise’, the following year.
Watch ‘Rock-A-Bye Pinky’ yourself and tell me what you think: